What are Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)?

Often, we hear people complaining of neck pain, back pain and inability to sleep well.  Chances are they might suffer from Musculoskeletal Disorder or MSDs.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries or pain in the human musculoskeletal system, including the joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons, and structures that support limbs, neck and back.  Musculoskeletal Disorders are typically characterized by pain (often persistent) and limitations in mobility, dexterity and overall level of functioning – affecting one’s ability to work properly.

MSDs can range from short-lived (fractures, sprains & strains) to chronic if it not treated.

The culprit

  • sudden exertion (e.g., lifting a heavy object),
  • repetitive motion, strain, exposure to force, vibration, or repetitive awkward posture
  • muscle tissue tear or trauma to an area (jerking movements, prolonged stationary positions, falls, fractures, sprains, dislocations, and direct blows to the muscle)

Many different parts of the body including upper and lower back, neck, shoulders and extremities (arms, legs, feet, and hands) can be affected.

Examples of Musculoskeletal Disorder:

Musculoskeletal Disorders Condition Possible activity that causes
Rotator cuff tendonitis

(Shoulder pain)

-Pressure to rotator cuff, space decreased, the added stress can result in tearing or shoulder impingement syndrome from bone pressing against tendons. 


-Sleeping on the stomach or even sitting too long in a position (slouching)
Tension Neck syndrome

(Neck pain)

-Also known as cervicobrachial syndrome. 

Stiffness with Tenderness of the Trapezius muscle causes fatigue, stiffness in the neck, neck pain or a headache pain from the neck.


-Sleeping on the stomach/trauma to the neck in one position.

-Sitting in a position for a prolonged period

Piriformis syndrome (PS)

Lumbar/Buttock pain


-Trauma, inflammation of soft tissue, muscle spasms, resulting nerve compression irritating the nearby sciatic nerve and cause pain, numbness and tingling along the back of the leg and into the foot (similar to sciatic pain).

-External rotation of the feet resulting shortening the piriformis (sciatica). When this deep hip rotator is tight, the psoas  become tight

Sitting in a position for a prolonged period (i.e., office worker, taxi drivers)

Stretching can be great for alleviating tightness in back muscles.  Therefore, it is important to develop healthy postural and movement habits that can help stretch or build the muscle strength that give your spine the support it needs. In this case, you can try Yoga.

Yoga poses for a nice back stretch:

1.Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)

Cat-Cow Pose stretches the neck and chest whilst bringing movements to the spine & back and shoulders muscles.

(Image credit:mindbodygreen.com)

Getting into the pose:

  • Sit on all fours, with the wrists lined up beneath the shoulders and the knees lined up underneath the hips. Keep the back straight yet relaxed. Engage the glutes for stability. Align the hips over the knees and thighs should be perpendicular to the floor
  • With each inhalation, keep arms and legs straight and extend your neck & look forward, letting the stomach gently push toward the floor. Contract your spinal erector and upper back muscles to open up your chest and lengthen the abs.
  • With each exhalation, flex the neck forward in, chin into the chest. Pull the navel in toward the spine and let the back arch high toward the ceiling. Engage the transverse abdominis (TVA) and rectus abdominis (RA). Focus on core engagement & breathing control.
  • Continue with these gentle motions for at least 1 minute. Notice anywhere there is tension in the body and try to release it and relax the area.

2.Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

Bridge Pose is a back-bending exercise that stretches the spine, hips, and hamstrings.  For tight psoas, a supported bridge pose with a yoga block under your pelvis and a high or low lunge (Anjaneyasana) practiced with a slight anterior (forward) tilt of the pelvis can help.

(Image credit:mindbodygreen.com)

Getting into the pose:

  • Lie flat on your back with arms at the side with palms on the mat.
  • Bend your knees, hip-width apart. Then bring your heels near the buttocks with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Inhale and slowly and raise your hips upward until thigh parallel with the floor. Push the shoulder blades together & inhale when lifting the hips. Resist letting your chin drop onto your chest to avoid neck strain. Cervical flexors engaged to flex neck while cervical extensors stretch the latissimus dorsi and teres major.  Middle and lower trapezius work with rhomboids whilst serratus muscle & gluteus maximus stretches.     
  • Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  • Slowly release the body back to the ground, from the torso down to the tailbone.


Yoga not only can relieve stress and tension, but also help to stretch and strengthen the muscles whilst maintaining a healthy spine.   Hence, before you start popping pills, you could try hitting the mat for a pain reducing yoga session to subdue that twinge.   Who knows, you might just find the joys that you thought you have lost– Perfect motion!